Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act (Short Update)


Photo credit: alvaro tapia hidalgo

This is a short update to the detailed analysis of the Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Work Place Act. As per news reports, the Act was notified on December 9, 2013 and has come into effect.

Recently there were many debates in the media that this law could be misused by women to settle scores as there were hardly any punishments prescribed in the act in case of false allegations. A new rule has been stipulated which states that in case of false allegations or an allegation with a malicious intent by the woman; she stands to lose her job. This is seen as putting a safeguard in the act against misuse.

Let us delve deeper into the clause of the Act. Firstly, as per section 14 of the Act, a false complaint is one which is backed by ‘forged documents’ or by ‘malicious intent’.

Forged Documents: Sexual Harassment complaints are typically accusations, and generally would not have any documentary evidence. Hence, the false complaint backed by forged documents will hardly ever be the case.

Malicious Intent: The complaint may also be termed as false if there is a malicious intent in filing the same. For proving malicious intent, the defendant (ie. Man/accused) has to prove that the women had no ‘reasonable and probable cause’ and ‘instituted the complaint without a just cause’. Proving a malicious intent is many times challenging.

Further, if the woman is unable to substantiate her accusation, it would not be termed as a false compliant and would not be a ground to initiate an action against the women. In essence, to show that the complaint was false, the accused person has to prove either of the 2 ingredients above, mere acquittal from the accusation is not enough.

Further, as per section 16, this Act is specially kept outside the purview of RTI Act. The details of false / fabricated cases will not be available and cannot be made public. The identity of the woman is protected even if she has filed a false case.

Therefore, the punishment prescribed for false cases is not a deterrent, due to the following reasons –

• Proving that the accusation was false is very difficult, as it can be done only if complaint is filed on the back of forged documents or with malicious intent. Both these ingredients are difficult to prove. Further, if the woman is unable to substantiate her complaint it does not amount to a false allegation.

• The identity of the woman is protected even if she files a false case. Hence, even if she loses her job due to a false allegation, her identity cannot be disclosed to the public and there is no backlash for her. She may move further and take up employment easily at another organization. The situation is completely different for the man, his identity is made public and he is open to media trials (even in case of false complaints). In case he loses his job, finding another one will be almost impossible.

In essence, just an accusation by the woman will destroy a man’s life with hardly any consequences whatsoever for the woman in case of fabricated / false complaints.

How can we say that this law is Just and Fair and not open to misuse?

Home Page: Stand Up for a Cause…


2 Responses to Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act (Short Update)

  1. congratulations all for the excellent text – very good

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